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Guidance for Reviewers

Benefits, roles and responsibilities:

PDR gives reviewers the opportunity to:

  • Spend time with individuals to discuss their roles, development, achievements and contributions
  • Recognise achievements, contributions and review the impact of development through constructive conversations
  • Prioritise and plan development needs for the individual and the department
  • Ensure that their teams and reports understand agreed goals and aspirations that collectively contribute to the aims of the department and the wider University
  • Hear feedback and generate suggestions for enhancing the work of the individual, team or the department.

Planning and Preparation

  • Agree a date and time for the review meeting, allowing enough time for preparation (usually 2 weeks) and a time for the meeting
  • Refresh your memory of the PDR process and skills. Check LDC website for available training
  • If this is your first PDR conversation with this reviewee, talk through the purpose and process with them and ensure they know you are committed to having a constructive, useful discussion
  • Ensure the reviewee has the appropriate form to complete and has the opportunity to ask any questions
  • Based on the reviewee’s previous PDR documentation, consider their development, achievements and contributions during the period. If appropriate gain additional input from other colleagues who have worked closely with the reviewee to obtain helpful feedback prior to the PDR conversation.
  • Consider future work goals for the individual, seeking input from more senior managers and individuals as necessary in order to predict future requirements and changes
  • Complete your part of the PDR documentation as appropriate
  • Anticipate any potential challenges and think through how you will handle them (see section on constructive conversations below)
  • Don’t raise any major concerns with the reviewee during the PDR if these have not previously been discussed.
  • Make a note of any actions that need to be agreed by the end of the conversation.

Practical arrangements

  • Book an appropriate room for the conversation
  • Ensure there are no interruptions
  • Ensure you are familiar with the department’s/school’s five year plan and strategic objectives

Follow up

  • Ensure development needs are submitted to the Learning and Development Centre (LDC) team using the appropriate document (see additional responsibilities for HoD below)
  • Provide your Head of Department with a summary of the development needs identified for those you have reviewed
  • Provide the reviewee with the necessary support and appropriate resources to access agreed development and as agreed with your Head of Department

The PDR process flowchart (PDF Document) may be useful in your understanding.

Additional responsibilities of HoD

The Head of Department will need to ensure that:

  • All employees are offered the opportunity to take part in PDR and to discuss their development and role
  • Reviewers are aware of the aims of the department and the wider University
  • The PDR scheme is organised appropriately in the department to ensure everyone is given the opportunity to have a PDR
  • All reviewers are clear on their role and responsibilities and have had any appropriate training as required
  • A summary of the departmental development needs are captured and forwarded to the LDC to inform the institutional development plan.
  • Summarising Learning and Development needs.

    In line with the process flowchart detailed above, the Summary Learning Needs Form should be used by the department to capture a summary of the learning and development needs from all DPR conversations. Once completed, this document should be sent to the Learning and Development Centre who will review them in line with developing the overall learning and development plan for the University.

Techniques to enable an effecitve PDR conversation:

Ensuring that conversations are constructive

Reviewees who have taken part in PDR briefings report that a PDR conversation is more likely to be productive when you:

  • Ensure you read the relevant parts of the form returned to you by your reviewer, so that you know what they wish to discuss in the meeting
  • Be prepared to discuss your development, achievements and contributions to focus the conversation
  • Are ready to listen as well as offer information, ideas and solutions. This is a two way conversation that should result in a plan agreed by both parties
  • Seek clarification of anything you are unsure of
  • Adopt a joint problem-solving approach where needed

Effective listening

Listening is a vital skill involved in effective 1:1 conversations.

Experienced reviewers/reviewees typically define the essential pre-requisites of an effective listening conversation as follows:

  • Choosing an appropriate venue for the discussion
  • Not allowing outside interruptions
  • Giving the meeting your full attention
  • Allocating an appropriate amount of time
  • Being open to what is being said

Listening is not simply about being silent and allowing the other person to reflect and talk in their own time. Effective conversations occur where both parties are engaged and responsive.

Techniques to enable this include:

  • Testing our understanding of what has been said by asking clarifying questions
  • Giving or receiving feedback
  • Summarising what has been said and the point which the conversation has reached
  • Developing an idea or suggestion in collaboration with the reviewee

How to handle difficult conversations

Prior to the meeting, it is important that both parties have agreed the agenda for the discussion. This will help to ensure that there are ‘no surprises’ raised during the meeting.

If you anticipate that there might be any ‘difficult’ aspect to your conversation, it is important that you address this prior to the meeting by speaking to an experienced colleague or to your HR Adviser on how to handle the situation.

You might also find it useful to visit the LDC website to access appropriate support

Understanding and drafting goals

Note: academic staff should refer to the relevant PDR forms for examples relating to their specific areas of focus

Drafting goals is a core element of the PDR scheme. Goals are developed and agreed so that the reviewer and the reviewee have a shared understanding of the key focus of work and results which need to be achieved moving forward.

Goals must be appropriate to the grade and role of the reviewee and should be set in the context of the aims of the department and the wider University.Individuals may also wish to consider how they will achieve their goals in a way that contributes to creating an environment of dignity, respect and inclusivity. The recent work around Respect at Warwick outlines 8 simple actions we each can take to contribute to creating this environment, They are also listed here:

  • Start with the basics – a simple hello or acknowledgement goes a long way
  • Remember we are all different - take time to learn about another person’s perspective
  • Be self-aware - think about how you interact, how you come across and consider how your unconscious biases may affect your behaviour
  • Develop your communication skills – do you really listen / do you challenge in a respectful way?
  • Discuss what respect means in your place of work
  • Take time to connect with and support others across the community – you might be surprised what you learn
  • Intervene early – if you see something that doesn’t seem right take action, don’t let your silence condone inappropriate behaviour
  • Lead with respect – remember as the leader you set the tone for your department

An individual may typically have between four and seven core goals. Any larger goals can be split in to sub-goals if that is useful. Effective goals should be written positively and should concentrate on the outcome or result you are seeking.

SMART is a well-known model used to capture effective goals and stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable/Agreed
  • Realistic
  • Time bound.

SMART goals:

  • Are consistent with the aims of the department and wider University
  • Are expressed in positive language
  • Start with an action to ensure they are focussed on something that can be subsequently measured (e.g. complete, publish, investigate, propose, revise, plan, install, design, develop, produce)

Defining goals

When starting to plan your goals, you may find it helpful to consider these questions:

  • What is the overall purpose of your role?
  • What are the main areas of work or tasks that you perform at the moment?
  • Is this the same as you will be doing in the future?
  • If not, why not and what will you be doing that is different next year?
  • How should this work be done? Are there any defined standards that are set?
  • If not, what standards would you set?
  • What are you expected to produce as outputs or outcomes in your role?
  • What support do you need to do this?
  • What knowledge, skills and behaviours do you need to do this work?
  • What development needs do you have in your current role?
  • What knowledge, skills and behaviours will you need for your future role if this will change?
  • What development needs or career aspirations do you have that will enable you to apply for promotion or a new role?
  • When will I be able to achieve and /or measure achievement against the goal or do I need shorter milestones?

Some examples of SMART goals that have been written by staff working in a range of roles can be found on p12-14 of the PDR 'How to' guide (PDF Document)

Planning and prioritising development needs

What is a development need?

This may be a gap in someone’s skills or experience, or areas that could be further developed to support the individual in achieving their work goals, improve their contribution and/or to fulfil their potential and career aspirations. In addition, it could be due to a future change or development in their area of work, and they need to gain the skill or knowledge on order to meet the future need.

There are finite resources and it is unlikely that every development opportunity requested will be fulfilled. Reviewers therefore have a responsibility to:

  • Understand the skills and expertise needed by reviewees and teams to achieve departmental priorities and key objectives
  • Identify any skills and experience gaps that are essential to enable and support individuals to carry out their roles effectively, now and in the future
  • Write a SMART goal for the development need in order to ensure clarity
  • Think about the full range of development methods available to support individuals which might include: on-job training, eLearning, DVDs, CDs, coaching, mentoring, peer observation, forums, conferences, job shadowing, reading, involvement in a project, secondments, as well as formal training workshops
  • Discuss the above with reviewees to identify the most appropriate methods of support for that person
  • Choose the most appropriate and effective development method(s), considering the best ‘value for money’
  • Prioritise development that is critical to the achievement of agreed goals

Whose responsibility is it to make development opportunities happen?

It is important that reviewees own their development plans, take responsibility for making development happen, and for reporting back on the outcomes of their development.

It is the reviewer’s responsibility to ensure that individuals:

  • Are given the support and appropriate resources to access agreed development
  • Review and report on its effectiveness
  • Use what they have learned to enhance their contribution in their role

Support to help staff identify their develop needs can be found on p16-20 of the PDR 'How to' guide (PDF Document)

Skills training for reviewers

LDC will be running a series of workshops to provide an introductory overview to the PDR process from the reviewers perspective. Workshop dates are available from April 2017 for colleagues who are new to the role of reviewer this year. Visit the workshop website for further details and booking.

If you are unable to make the workshop dates, or would like to update/refresh your knowledge, the first workshop was filmed and two AV presentations created, discussing the key principles and skills involved in the PDR process. Visit the Presentation Recordings page to view.

Other video learning resources are also available that you may find useful in relation to your role as a reviewer and conducting effective review conversations:

  • Performance Objectives at Work - this introduces SMART objectives as an approach in constructive performance discussions, to engage an individual in the process to meet university objectives and personal goals. It reinforces the importance of supporting a colleague you are line managing to emotionally and actively engage with the process of a personal development review.
  • Feedback: Fixing Performance Problems - this provides practical solutions to performance management conversations, and how to consider if performance issues are a result of misunderstandings.
    The CEDAR model to performance discussions is introduced: clarify, explain, discuss, agree, review.
  • Management Skills: WHAM - this discusses the importance of motivation in effective performance, whilst appreciating the staff members responsibility to perform.
    The WHAM approach is What, How and Able = Motivated

You may wish to visit the full range of video learning resources, including a range of short guides on difficult conversations.


Video highlighting key PDR points for the reviewer

Top tips

Ongoing career conversations

To support broader and ongoing career conversations you may to view these Moodle sites, including information and short online courses: